Raven Hair Sisters

When my daughter was very young we began taking her to the local library for toddler time. They would read stories to the kids, then they could all be “social” and play with the train set and puzzles with the other kids. Plus, this was networking gold for the other moms (and occasional dads). But as any parent knows keeping a newly mobile toddler in place to listen to a story is not always easy. Velcro on the butt crossed my mind a few times. I even suspected it of some of the other more crafty looking parents. I was always fascinated by the attentiveness of one of the girls there, Willa. Over time we got to know them and I had the pleasure of photographing the family when their 2nd daughter was born last September.

Serafina Brand New

Born with the same thick head of black hair as her sister Serafina immediately began hearing the constant reoccurring comment of “oh my! she has so much hair for a newborn!”. But today while we sat in their comfortably warm and well lit home, it felt more like a window into how they sit with eachother and enjoy family time together than a photo shoot. Brad happily pulled out his guitar to add some nice background music to soothe the baby, and I of course brought some candy incentive for 4 year old Willa. 

Willa and my daughter go to school, and dance class together. So even though she knew who I was (Natalie’s dad, or, guy-who-always-has-camera) I was still in her space and she withdrew a bit. It was a lot having a brand new sister in the house.

But ultimately she quietly accepted that I would be there for just a short while, and when she didn’t think I was there could be caught being “Willa” and having conversations with her folks. Then she overcame all of her shyness to have a picture taken of herself, her new baby sister, and her equally raven haired mother, Tanya.

I was excited to be asked and incredibly honored, to come and do more family photos when Serafina approached her 6 month birthday. Watching her growing personality at dance class while my daughter and her sister were in practicing they arabesque, there was now a chatty, happy, jet black haired little girl.

Trip 2 to the house for photos showed Willa a much more confident older sister. Not only wanting to be in the pictures, but helping in trying to get baby sis to smile!

"Chubby Chubby" as she says.

It quickly moved from a 6 month old shoot to a very happy and fun sister shoot!

Since the guitar had been such an integral fixture in the first shoot we thought why not incorporate it this time too!

We’re not going to discuss here what happened while she was in there, but I think I owe them a new lining.

When she was a newborn the shoot was broken up with feedings, naps, diaper changes but this one was just a happy smiley baby the whole way through with a confident sister by her side the entire time.

I feel honored and privileged to have been given the opportunity to document this important moments in this family’s life. I hope these pictures act as a reminder of this time with their little girls at their house at the beach.

Kris

Tiny Dancers

When I was in the 1st grade I wanted to try everything. Basketball, baseball, soccer (definitely not for me) and gymnastics. Living in Gold Beach, OR only afforded so many actual opportunities to do these things as there weren’t retired NBA stars or Russian Olympian tumblers living just down the street. But, the community made it work

I don’t actually remember how long I participated in the gymnastics program, from what I recall however it was not for very long. I had one goal, and that was to master the balance beam. I trotted along curbs enough that how hard could the balance beam be? It was just a narrower curb elevated a few feet off the ground, no big deal. For some reason they kept  dissuading me from the beam, which at the time angered me, but now leaves me relieved that I didn’t suffer some agonizing fall, straddling the beam and eliminating my change to have my daughter later in life. My daughter who now is in dance class, and gets to walk across a balance beam at the end of each day.

"Warming up"

In December all of us parents finally got to sit in and watch a small demonstration of the class. Since these are all 3-5 year olds a curtain typically hangs across the door so we don’t act as a distraction glued to the glass cheering them on throughout class. But for this day we got to line up along the mirror in fold out chairs and quietly cheer on the little ones.

They stretched. They pretended to be various animals, as well as rocks. They jumped, and swung their legs at the barre. All the things their awkward little bodies could muster. One of the families was going out of town so the older sister did her demo with this class too. The rivalry was minimal.

Sisters

They jumped some more.

Jete`

Finally they twisted and turned, and giggled as little girls in tutus do before a bow from all and a stuffed bear given to each one of them from their dance teacher.

I am glad we can provide these opportunities for my daughter. She’s the blonde with the dual braids by the way. Its an outstanding group of young people. I once remember hearing one of the other dads say “watching them just gives you hope”. Granted, he had been working with them backstage at last years show so I can only imagine he was heavily sedated, but ultimately, I think he’s right.

The Yaquina Head

Yaquina? Yuhkwinuh? It’s ok if you stumble a little when trying to pronounce the name, it’s an Oregon thing. We like to confuse tourists with names like Yachats, Neahkahnie, Umpqua and the ever popular Boring. But on the central Oregon coast there is the Yaquina Head Oustanding Natural Area, home to Oregon’s tallest lighthouse.

It may not be Oregon’s most photographed lighthouse (that goes to Heceta Head about an hour south) but it ranks amongst the windier points of interest. On this evening it was no exception. I took my daughter out to grab a couple shots when the tourist population was low. I prefer to keep fanny packs and straw rimmed hats out of as many of my shots as possible. 

It was blowing hard, as usual, on the bluff that stretches about 1 mile into the Pacific. My daughter ran in circles, tracing the cement compass while I fired off a couple of shots. The lighthouse was closed for tours, inside is a lengthy spiral staircase and usually a volunteer dressed as a caretaker. If traveling the coast this is worth a stop. There is a well designed visitor center with museum, and a small hike to the top of the hill giving an expansive panoramic view. Just remember, they close at dusk….

To see more visit http://www.Facebook.com/KrisMillerPhotography

Desktop

Aside

At 7 years old I was sharing the “master” bedroom of our house in Hunter Creek, Or with my 2 younger brothers. Not for a lack of space in the house mind you, but because this particular room was unique. It allowed for all 3 of us to easily fit 3 beds, a full dresser, and within the 3 mirrored closets along the wall all our belongings. It was a bizarrely large room with red and black shag carpet. The mirror on the wall had a bull fighter gold etching on it. Tacky does not begin to describe the oddities in this space.

Being the very particular child that I was at 7 I approached my parents with an outlined plan as to why I should take residence in the “den”. First and foremost it was important that I no longer be forced to try to sleep in a space with the “loud sleepers” that were my brothers. Much to my surprise, request was approved. My own space was on the horizon.

I shuttled all my things down the narrow hallway, far from the sighing, snorting, crinkling plastic bed cover sleep noises that had been my early introduction to insomnia and never looked back. The den, with its book case, 2 closets and most importantly the desk space. There was an inset wall between the 2 closets that allowed for my grandfather’s desk to slide in perfectly. A dark hardwood home base to GI Joe figurines and a place to pen down my many overcomplicated thoughts for age 7. I began journal writing in that place. Realistically it should have been titled “Love Lorn at 7 – Whininess of an Elementary Student”.

For some reason it was so important to me to have that space. I always wanted to feel like a grown up, and with the oversized (for me) chair, heavy drawers and desk light I was able to feel like an overworked middle class adult. Now I am blessed with a daughter who often shows signs of wanting to be a grown up. She has a small table that my mother painted the alphabet on for her where she draws, paints, colors, cuts paper down into the tiniest of pieces just because she can. Her friends come over and they sit across from each other and have meals, giggling the entire time. This table, her desk, has given her that place to explore and be the grown up writing her name on a pad of paper, or the preschooler cramming Dora stickers to every inch of a 3×5″ card. My goal is to always give her that work space she wants to be an artist, to be a writer, or to pretend she is a middle class desk worker, whatever it is she wants it to be.

Sometimes her desk becomes her oversized chair.

Harris Bridge Vineyard

In the winter of 2004 I took my burgeoning wine palette to the holiday festival held at the Lane County Fairgrounds. It was a smorgasbord of wine, desserts, and of course nick-nacky holiday attire and potpourri. Filled with smug (yes, smug) I toured the various wine tables, while the group I was with was far more interested in the other goodies and didn’t mind at all that I was tasting my way to needing someone else to drive. Tucked in a back corner was a newer winery. Not that Oregon is shy on up and coming wineries, but this one had a niche. They only dealt in dessert wines.

As a young wine drinker this was immediately appealing since all new wine drinkers like sweet wine. Oh yeah, and they alcohol content was higher. I got to talking to the co-owner of the winery, Amanda Sever, and pledged that if I someday had a wine shop or restaurant I would sell their wines! As she was in the back corner, and many people had passed many other drinking pit stops on the way there, I am sure she was getting plenty of promises. Two years later though I was managing a small wine shop in Newport, Or and they were one of the first calls I made to stock the shelves.

Skipping ahead to present day, I’ve enthusiastically sent people to Nathan and Amanda’s growing winery down a rutted gravel road in Wren, Or. Nestled next to one of Oregon’s historic covered bridges they keep a small vineyard and produce dessert style pinot noir and pinot gris, and soon some liqueur! The cozy barn type structure that houses their vineyard caretaker, story writer, and tasting room frequently hosts live music events and various other activities.

I frequently call dessert style wines “candy wine”. The easy drinking high sugar wines that can easily take advantage of a person with their drinkability don’t always have a wide reach when it comes to being appreciated.  But the variety here is what makes them special. A series of whites that are sweet and smooth served chilled, butted up against a series of reds that teeter on reminding me (at least) of a light port wine.

I’ve taken many ney sayers by for a sample over the years, and not one of them didn’t find something they liked and very often times purchased. 

The comfortable environment, the friendly wines and pourers make this an incredibly inviting stop between the valley and the Oregon coast. Find them on Facebook. Browse their website. Each bottle of wine has a “story” affixed to the top above the cork, enjoy their story while making your own.

www.harrisbridgevineyard.com/

Did I mention they have lawn games on nice days?

Sun Breaks

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In Oregon, we live and die by “sun breaks”. That time when the rain has stopped, the clouds have parted, and for a brief time we have sunlight.

After a series of heavy storms, high winds, extremely high surf and an immense amount of rain I took a “sun break” moment to head up north of Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area to snap some pictures assuming I’d find some great piles of debris from the recent storms. When I arrived the realization struck that there is a rocky reef that would have kept just about everything off the beach. Oops.

I stayed though, the air was calm and only one other person was found navigating the slippery rocks.

It’s not often that I venture out to take landscape photos without Natalie. It’s also just about the only way I can get out to do landscape photos when there is not a preschooler darting around at full speed.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

After snagging a few images in a short time for some photo therapy, and before my sun break was up I did what I’ve done since I was little; chased some birds. 

 

Those Hands….

Feminine. Dainty. Elegant. These are all words I’ve heard to describe my hands during my life. As a young boy that was right up there with women telling me they wished they had long eyelashes like mine (nearly took scissors to the eyelashes when I was 9, I clearly remember the view of sharp metal just inches from my eye). Not really the reassurance of masculinity I may have been looking for.

I have always had a fascination with other peoples hands. They are a feature I notice. Maybe because so much attention had been drawn to my own, but a girl with pretty hands was always a priority on my list of shallow things to find attractive. The “toe-thumbs” of Megan Fox are a clear example of something I would not be able to get pass, similar to Jerry Seinfeld and his many quirks.

When Natalie was born I waited to hear the doctor say that all those fingers and toes were accounted for. That fear of the unknown as she came into the world of whether or not she was done baking in the oven. As she entered and here little fingers squirmed uncontrollably I immediately realized I just wanted to hold those little hands and never let go.

1 month old Natalie asleep on my lap gripping my thumb in her sleep

As she grows through the stages of first just trying not to poke herself in the eye, to placing blocks through matching slots, holding a spoon or fork to practicing her handwriting, I am constantly amazed over what her little hands can accomplish. She has small, elegant, slender fingers that fit perfectly in her nose, where they can often be found.

Her nails are always short as she shares my bad habit of nail biting. Without knowing it I was passing down to her something I inherited from my mother, and who knows before her.

Easter Hands

She’s nearly 4 now. Her arms can easily wrap fully around my neck where she can interlock her fingers and nearly choke me out when she tries. She has the strength to hang upside down on the monkey bars on any playground. The preferred mode of transportation is still to be carried if she can get away with it, and post nap every day (when she still manages to take one) she sits up, wraps her arms around my neck, locks those dainty, elegant, feminine fingers together and for all I care doesn’t ever have to let go.

 

Sleepy Hands